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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Tonerider AlNiCo IV Classics, Analysis and Review

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Antigua Tele, Nov 11, 2016.

  1. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast

    I had bought a set of Seymour Duncan Jazz pickups a couple years back, which I put into an Epiphone Les Paul remake of the 70's Artisan model, and I never felt they did the guitar justice, so I was looking for a more straight up PAF clone, and I decided to give Tonerider a shot.

    I have here a set of the AlNiCo IV's, and though I have not isntalled and listened to them yet, the technical break down is extremely promising, and quite surprising for a lower priced offering.

    A summary of the quality aspects: this is the lowest priced PAF clone I've analyzed to date that features, a wood spacer, nickel silver base plate, and a nickel silver cover. A Seymour Duncan '59, the go-to PAF clone for many decades, features a plastic spacer and a brass cover, though they do claim to use nickel silver base plates, and are priced at $115 with a gold cover for ONE pickup, while the Tonerider IV's are priced $105 for TWO PICKUPS. That's less than half the cost for a more technically authentic PAF clone.

    I had previously dissected Chinese Donlis double cream PAF clones , which can be had for as little has $25 for a neck and bridge set, and while the Donlis set is priced lower than the Toneriders, the Tonerider beats the Donlis with the wood spacer and nickel silver appointments, while the Donlis is nearly equivalent to the Seymour Duncan '59, save for the the base plate metals.

    I don't believe there is any merit to the claim that excessive wax potting is detrimental to tone, but it's believed by some to be a virtue, and it sure is nice to have have to mess with so much of it when performing magnet swaps and the like, and the Tonerider features a very light amount of wax potting, especially compared to DiMarzio, who entirely displace all of the air with wax in their covered humbuckers.

    About the only detail I can think of is that they didn't use plain enamel magnet wire, but as you can see below, the bode plots track a Gibson 57 Classic almost exactly, so it appears that the insulation coat is electrically trivial here.

    Price aside, these are more authentic, and better performing PAF clones than many of the $100+ offerings on the market.


    Tonerider AlNiCo IV AC4 Bridge
    Series DC Resistance: 8.42K
    Series Inductance: 5.496H
    Gauss: 280 screw / 280 slug (AlNiCo 4)

    Resonant Peak: dV: 3.6dB f: 6.97kHz (black)
    Loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 1.1dB f: 2.50kHz (red)

    Tonerider AlNiCo IV AC4 Neck
    Series DC Resistance: 7.61K
    Series Inductance: 4.588H
    Gauss: 230 screw / 260 slug (AlNiCo 4)

    Resonant Peak: dV: 3.3dB f: 7.13kHz (green)
    Loaded (200k & 470pF): dV: 1.3dB f: 2.67kH (gray)

    Bode plot:


    Cover quality:

    The first big issue of quality is the gold cover. Any metal that sits between the strings and the coils is in a position to cause a lot of damping. The Tonerider outperforms a chromed brass Seymour Duncan cover I keep on hand by 1.2dB at the resonant peak. Having no cover raises the peak another 3dB, so it could be said that the Tonerider cover is 25% more electrically or magnetically transparent than the Seymour Duncan cover. I don't know precisely what metal is used for the gold cover, but all the clues point to nickel silver.


    How it compares to a premium priced humbucker:

    The second issue of quality is how it compares to higher price humbuckers from reputable brands, and for that comparison I have a Gibson 57 Classic with brushed nickel silver cover on hand.

    It can be seen that the three pickups nearly overlap, especially the Gibson 57 Classic and the Tonerider IV bridge. For all intents and purposes, they have identical knees, and the resonant cutoffs barely differ.



    Regarding construction, there is not a lot to say, other than they get the details right. It's not at all common to see a nickel silver base, nor a wood spacer in an aftermarket PAF clone at this price point. The Epiphone ProBuckers get these details right, though they deviate from the PAF footprint slightly and include two wood spacers. AFAIK, this is the lowest priced PAF clone on the market to also feature a quality nickel silver cover.

    I appreciated that the covers were secured with relatively small, easy to melt globs of solder.

    The four screws holding the bobbins in appear to be steel, where as most tend to use what appear to be brass screws. Steel would be ever so slightly better.

    Another attention detail paid is the tape used on the bobbins. Many makers, such as DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan, use a fabric-like cloth tape on their coils. The Gibson 57 Classic and pictures of a real PAF provided by Throbak show what looks like a more paper-like sticky tape, and it can be seen that the Toneriders use a tape on their bobbins that looks substantially similar to Throbak pictures.


    Nickel silver base plate:

    Very light wax potting:

    Attractive wood spacer:


    You can see that the magnet wire insulation coat is clear:

    Inside the Tonerider neck, very clean, light amounts of wax:

    Testing the Seymour Duncan cover over the Tonerider neck pickup:

    Plotting the Gibson 57 Classic:
    RoyBGood, Doug 54, xland and 4 others like this.
  2. smoss469

    smoss469 Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 12, 2007
    West Virginia
    How are you getting the graphs that are suddenly in every pickup thread?
  3. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 20, 2014
    Antigua is using my V5 integrator and a Velleman digital scope.
    Doug 54 and Antigua Tele like this.
  4. smoss469

    smoss469 Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 12, 2007
    West Virginia
  5. backporchmusic

    backporchmusic Friend of Leo's

    Nov 28, 2006
    Thanks for all this hard work. Eventually, this will make a great database to help with pickup selection.
    Doug 54 likes this.
  6. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I'll make a spread sheet one of these days. I still have a bunch of pickups to document still. It takes between thirty minute to an hour per pickup set, so I do set whenever I can.
    Doug 54 and Iago like this.
  7. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 20, 2014
    This set looks really good. I'll have to spend more time looking at their site. Although, the A2 set looks more like my cup of tea.
  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Yeah, I'm blown away. I honestly haven't looked at ThroBak's sales pitch with respect to authenticity, so maybe from the ultra PAF aficionado perspective there are mistakes with the Tonerider left and right, but what I see is nickel silver every where, a real wood spacer, good wind values, and a plot that suggests these are all but Gibson 57 Classic clones at a fraction of the cost. The Les Paul they are going in has SD Jazz, so an analysis of that set will be forthcoming.
  9. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Here's a how to guide for the method I use, , with a crucial aspect of the setup provided by our own rigatele.

    Rigatele has a setup that similar using RightMark and an audio card. I use a Velleman just because I have a system down and I'm trying to bang out data as fast as possible.
  10. oyobass

    oyobass Tele-Meister

    Feb 26, 2011
    SpanaGrahm, WA
    I have a set of the Tonerider A-2 PAF in my Washburn Mighty Idol (maple capped LP style guitar). Haven't been able to pick up another guitar for very long without going right back to the Washburn...
    Clear highs, cuts through the wash of reverb and echo when playing ambient style, so they are perfectly suited to fill the reason I got them.
    Side benefit? Classic rock tone in buckets with the drive cranked a bit more. Pinch harmonics jump out in a Billy Gibbons sort of way.
    To say that I really like them would be an understatement.
    richiek65 likes this.
  11. wildschwein

    wildschwein Tele-Afflicted

    Tonerider HBs are some of the best I have heard -- one of the greatest buys around. I have one set of the Tone Generators and also a set of the Alnico Classics -- really can't fault them.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2016
  12. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I installed this set into an Epiphone Lee Malia Sig Les Paul last night, and I've been messing with them throughout the day. I like them a lot. They're quintessential PAF tone, both according to my ears, and according to the numbers. The neck chimes, the bridge barks, as you'd expect. Lower either one, and they become more ciovilized, as you'd expect.

    I just spent about twenty minutes A/B'ing them with a Gibson Les Paul with 57 Classics, and the sound I get from the two guitars is close, and I came to the conclusion that the two guitars were too different to honestly pick apart how the pickups differed. I don't think it was attributable to the wood, either, I think it mostly how to do with the setup difference, such as action and pickup height, as well as the strings. That being said, I was very satisfied with the tone I got from both guitars.

    A note about Tonerider's covers; they seem to have a smaller edge radius than most humbucker covers. They're more sharp edged than any I've seen from anywhere else, domestic or Eastern, so if you're picky about that sort of thing, you might want to buy your own metal covers and buy coverless humbuckers from Tonerider. It's still a helluva deal compared to, say, a new 57 Classic. The eddy current resonance loss from the stock covers were 1dB lower than the Seymour Duncan, so if you don't mind the edgier look of the stock Tonerider cover, they do perform well.
    src9000 and oyobass like this.
  13. Tele-phone man

    Tele-phone man Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 11, 2006
    Asheville, NC
    I have the Tonerider neck model you just tested in a Hamer. I like it very, very much. I have it paired with a GFS Classic II Alnico II (neck model) in the bridge position. I have that same GFS model in both positions of a Washburn HB35 (335 clone), and it is my favorite PAF type pickup. The Tonerider is very, very similar in clarity and output. I would be interested to see how your analysis would apply to the GFS Classic II. My suspicion is that it would compare very favorably to these others that you have looked at.
  14. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 24, 2014

    Nice; I'm especially impressed with the bridge pickup. It really cuts through and has good clarity, without sounding raspy.
    wildschwein likes this.
  15. songtalk

    songtalk Friend of Leo's

    I want to get the A2 humbuckers at some point. I mean that is the classic formula. Be interesting to compare to my SD Seth Lovers.
  16. Maggot

    Maggot Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 16, 2003
    Durham, NC
    I just ordered an Alnico IV bridge pickup for my Yamaha baritone. I'm looking f
    orward to it. My experience with similarly-powered. A4 humbuckers (Buddha & DiMarzio) in general has been very positive. They have a stringiness that is missing in most other humbuckers. They're good with low-tuned guitars because the bass is a little tighter than A2 or A5. They feel tighter and punchier than similarly powered A5 pickups when distorted. They sound just a little bit more polite than A5 clean, and tighter and less spongy than A2. That sound seems like it's reflected in the demo.

    I can't wait to try the Toneriders.

    Their Strat pickups came stock in my Squier CV, and sound the most like old Strat pickups of any pickups I've ever used, including some big names.
  17. bigben55

    bigben55 Friend of Leo's

    May 19, 2010
    Cincinnati, OH
    I had an uncovered Tonerider Rocksong in the neck of a 335 and friggin loved it. I have 100% faith and confidence in Tonerider pups.

    That said, I've been loving the SD Jazz in the neck of my G&L Bluesboy. That guitar has a tone cap but 250k pots.

    I'd love to hear a Rebel 90 in it though.
  18. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 24, 2014
    Something I compiled a few months ago, regarding the price difference, and bewilderment, when selecting a PAF-type pickup.

  19. awasson

    awasson Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Nov 18, 2010
    That image doesn't seem to be coming through.
  20. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 24, 2014
    It might be your browser and security settings.
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